The Open: Rory McIlroy leaves Portrush with 'head held high' after 65
Home favourite insists he can leave Royal Portrush having shown fans 'the real Rory' after spirited second-round rally falls just short
By Keith Jackson at Royal Portrush
Last Updated: 20/07/19 10:38am
Rory McIlroy was emotionally drained after his enthralling second-round fightback came up agonisingly short of making the halfway cut at The Open.
McIlroy was close to tears shortly after receiving a standing ovation from his legion of home fans around the 18th green at Royal Portrush on Friday as he holed out for a 65 - shaving 14 shots off his torrid opening round in which he dropped seven shots on the first and last holes combined.
The damage of his 79 proved just too much to repair, but he gave the sell-out crowd their money's worth on day two as he defied the cool and damp conditions to card seven birdies and just one bogey which ultimately cost him the chance to play the weekend.
McIlroy's bid to restore his pride began well as he cruised to the turn in 32 with birdies at the third and seventh, and he then started the inward nine with three consecutive birdies to leave him needing just two more to avoid joining Tiger Woods on an early flight home.
However, he pushed his tee shot to the short 13th into the front-right bunker, from where he splashed out to 20 feet and left the par putt short. He atoned for his error with a birdie at the next, and a towering 230-yard iron to eight feet at 16 which he rolled in for his seventh birdie of the day.
However, he allowed a little too much break with a mid-range birdie putt on 17, and he tugged his second to 18 into the run-off area to the left of the green. He did well to get up-and-down to salvage a closing par, but two over par for the championship was one shot shy of the cut mark.
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Asked about his emotions afterwards, McIlroy said: "There's a lot of them. Disappointed not to be here for the weekend, but unbelievably proud of how I handled myself today, coming back after what was a very challenging day yesterday.
"I'm just full of gratitude towards every single one of the people that followed me to the very end and was willing me on. As much as I came here at the start of the week saying I wanted to do it for me, by the end of the round there today I was doing it just as much for them as I was for me.
"I wanted to be here for the weekend and I selfishly I wanted to feel that support for two more days. But today was probably one of the most fun rounds of golf I've ever played. It's strange saying that standing here and having had a bit of success and won this championship before, and just to be battling to make the cut.
"To play in front of those crowds today and to feel that momentum and really dig in, it's going to be a tough one to get over. I'll probably rue the finish yesterday, dropping five shots on the last three holes, but I felt like I gave a good account of myself today and I can leave here with my head held high.
"Obviously what happened yesterday was a bit of an anomaly, and there's a few big numbers thrown in there. But I felt today I showed the real Rory McIlroy and the golf that I can play.
"You're only as good as your last round, I guess, and one of the great things about golf is there's always next week. I've got a pretty big tournament in Memphis to go to. And I'm leaving here with a pretty solid golf game
"Even though the major season is over for me, there's still a lot to play for, for me this year - I've got the rest of the PGA Tour schedule to go, and I'm probably going to have a pretty busy fall season. I've still got to play probably between eight and 10 tournaments before the end of the year.
"The major season is over but the season and trying to finish the year off on a positive note isn't."